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THE NEXT IRAQ ELECTION

January 3, 2006

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Whatever else it is, 2006 is an election year in the United States, and that fact will bear directly on the war in Iraq. Sustaining a difficult military mission gets even more difficult as U.S. lawmakers near their scheduled date with the electorate in November 2006. And this year's midterm election finds America's two political parties more divided than usual on foreign policy issues, as this CFR Background Q&A explains. Polls showing dwindling support for the war and a general drift among voters toward Democrats have forced President Bush to defend his policies. The latest numbers suggest he successfully staunched the bleeding of support.

He may also have opened new rifts among Democrats, who, in the words of conservative commentator Larry Kudlow, "are helping Bush and the GOP by reminding the electorate that they remain soft and untrustworthy on national security and the terror war." Of course, all presidents face challenges once they become second-term "lame ducks." But CFR's Director of Studies James Lindsay notes, the president "began waddling and quacking a lot earlier than most people figured." Both political parties have begun testing the long-term implications of Iraq earlier than usual (WSJ), while the Heritage Foundation's James Phillips attempts to refute "some of the major myths" about Iraq he says have "distorted the public's understanding of U.S. policy."

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